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Orchestra/Band Conductor

Orchestra and band conductors produce their own interpretations of musical works by directing performers in musical groups such as chamber orchestras, wind ensembles, concert bands, marching bands, symphony orchestras, jazz bands and orchestras for ballet, musical theatre and opera performances.

  • Avg. Salary $36,221.00
  • Avg. Wage $32.85
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Conductor, Music Director

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Orchestra/Band Conductor is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
NOC code: 5132.1

Interest in instructing instrumentalists and performers to achieve rendition required; and in leading bands, orchestras and choirs during rehearsals and performances, in auditioning and selecting instrumental and vocal performers, and in supervising and co-ordinating activities of studio and company personnel


Interest in synthesizing information to control balance, rhythm, dynamics and entries of instruments and voices to create interpretation of scores; and in planning and organizing musical productions, and in assigning parts to performers so the meaning and feeling of interpreted scores are expressed


Interest in precision working to memorize musical scores; and in selecting music to accommodate talents of groups, and in positioning performers to obtain balance and harmony of instruments and voices

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Mar 11, 2016

In general, orchestra and band conductors:

  • select music that is appropriate to the talents, abilities and strengths of the group
  • study musical scores to learn the music in detail and develop a particular interpretation of the music
  • use conducting gestures to shape the music (develop colour, tone, volume, pitch and desired quality) and to keep the musicians in time
  • audition instrumentalists to select musicians for their group
  • schedule, prepare for and direct rehearsals.

They also may:

  • contact and meet with composers to discuss interpretations of their work
  • perform administrative duties such as scheduling performances, organizing tours, negotiating recording contracts, applying for grants and budgeting 
  • work with music librarians to ensure that musical scores are available
  • work with others to produce promotional materials
  • conduct guest soloists in addition to the ensemble.

Conductors usually schedule rehearsals, allowing sufficient time for the preparation of new works as well as reviewing the standard repertoire. The principal conductor or guest conductor meets separately with each soloist well in advance of a performance. They also work closely with concertmasters (principal solo violinists) in preparing for rehearsals.

A conductor's reputation is based largely on presenting a strong, dynamic presence as a leader. This comes from exceptional talent (most conductors are outstanding performers themselves), a unique style and the ability to communicate with musicians individually and collectively.

Some conductors hold the additional role of music director of an orchestra or musical group. Music directors make artistic decisions for the group including choosing the repertoire and guest artists for the upcoming season.

Symphony orchestras often have a general manager who works closely with the music director or conductor to handle financial matters. Overseeing the activities of the music director and general manager is a board of directors. In larger organizations, the management team also includes an artistic administrator who works closely with the conductor or music director and management and is usually a member of negotiating teams.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Guest conducting often involves a considerable amount of travelling. It may include conducting singers as well as players. Sometimes, orchestra conductors conduct several hundred performers at one time including instrumentalists, choirs and soloists.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Orchestra and band conductors need the following characteristics:

  • passion, insight and musical talent
  • excellent performance skills on their instrument
  • strong verbal and non-verbal communication skills
  • the ability to inspire members of the orchestra or band
  • the flexibility required to be responsive to member needs, abilities and ideas
  • the ability to work within time constraints and in stressful or demanding musical settings.

They should enjoy taking charge and controlling situations, and developing innovative approaches.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Orchestra and band conductors must have a thorough knowledge of music, beginning with the study of an instrument (usually, piano). In general, they need:

  • mastery of at least one instrument and performance experience
  • an overall understanding of musical instruments and their techniques
  • interpretive skills and instincts
  • ear training (the ability to hear more than one voice at a time)
  • practical experience in composition
  • advanced skills in musical analysis
  • demonstrated mastery of various musical styles
  • knowledge of conventional conducting techniques (use of the baton, right and left arms) and the ability to express themselves through gestures.

Conductors also may have:

  • studied the languages of great composers (Italian, French and German)
  • studied the standard repertoire of various musical periods
  • cultivated a broad appreciation for the arts and history through travel and study beyond their music training.

Formal academic training for conductors often starts with a four year bachelor's degree in music. Most conductors then continue their music education with a master's degree or even a doctoral degree in music or study at a music conservatory. Admission to a graduate degree program generally requires an acceptable average in a related bachelor's degree program.

Those wishing to teach music and conduct groups in schools may take any of the following education routes:

  • a four year Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degree with a specialization in music
  • a five year combined B.Mus./B.Ed. degree
  • a three or four year bachelor's degree in music followed by two or more years in a Bachelor of Education (After Degree) program.

Aspiring conductors should observe well known conductors in action. Some established conductors will allow conducting students to attend and observe working rehearsals. It may be possible for a student interested in conducting to assist a teacher or principal conductor with a youth orchestra or school band.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 11, 2016

There are many more conductors than orchestras and bands in Canada. Young conductors may start out by working with community and youth orchestras, as repetiteurs for opera ensembles or in staff, rehearsal or conductor-in-residence positions.

Conductors may work with:

  • elementary, junior and senior high school groups
  • university and college groups
  • community groups
  • small professional ensembles (jazz and dance bands, chamber orchestras, wind ensembles)
  • musical theatre orchestras 
  • symphony orchestras.

School band or orchestra conductors may be expected to teach music classes as well as direct the school band or orchestra.

Conductors may gain recognition and visibility by:

  • attending conductor training workshops
  • working with soloists who are impressed with a conductor's performance
  • working with composers of new works
  • winning awards at national and international competitions
  • obtaining study grants and scholarships to study abroad
  • guest conducting with other orchestras or bands
  • adjudicating at festivals
  • presenting at conferences.

Many conductors must work in other music related areas to make a living while they study and gain experience. This may include performing, teaching, composing or arranging.

Orchestra and band conductors are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5132: Conductors, Composers and Arrangers. In Alberta, 89% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Salaries for school band conductors who have a degree and a teaching certificate are based on the individual's qualifications and experience (for more information, see the Secondary School Teacher occupational profile). Community orchestras may pay conductors minimal salaries or token honorariums.

Fees and salaries for orchestra conductors generally are negotiated separately for each contract. In smaller orchestras, they can range significantly.

Conductors, composers and arrangers
NOC code: 5132

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $0.00 $0.00 $29.46 $23.08
Overall $0.00 $0.00 $32.85 $25.27
Top $0.00 $0.00 $33.20 $25.27

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

D: Lowest Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lowest Reliability, represents a CV of more than 33.00% and/or if fewer than 10 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 25% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


2015 Vacancy Rate

Related High School Subjects
  • Fine Arts
    • Music
  • English Language Arts
  • Languages (other than English)
  • Science
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Cultural Human Resources Council website:


For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated May 17, 2009. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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